College Dorm Essentials Checklist: Everything You Need For School (2024)

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Twin beds. Tiny rooms. Living with a stranger—all part of the fun of living in a dorm. If you’re heading to college, you may be nervous about your new home and overwhelmed about what you need to make a small living space comfortable.

Dorm shopping lists can be incredibly lengthy (and expensive!). According to the National Retail Federation, college students and their families plan on spending an average of $1,200 on dorm supplies and electronics in 2021. Some may even use their student loans to purchase these necessary items.

To help you narrow down your dorm room checklist, here are some of the top college dorm essentials that students can use.

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Bedding and Sleep

Most colleges will supply you with a basic twin bed frame and mattress. You’re responsible for any linens, but the bed itself is provided to you. To help you get the best sleep possible—early morning classes are no joke—plan on buying these items.

Sheets and Comforter

You’ll usually have a twin bed. At certain schools, the mattress will be longer than a standard twin, so look for sheets and comforters labeled “XL” if needed.

Bed-in-a-bag sets are easy and inexpensive ways to get everything you need to outfit your bed. They usually come with sheets, a comforter and even decorative shams. If you’re not sure what you want your dorm to look like, pick a set in a neutral color. By changing your shams or adding throw pillows, you can completely change the look as your style evolves.

Mattress Topper

Dorm mattresses aren’t known for their comfort. If you’re worried about the mattress being too firm or not supportive enough, consider buying a memory foam mattress topper. They’re less expensive than a new mattress and can help you get a better night’s sleep.

Mattress Protector

It may be gross to think about, but you will likely be sleeping on a mattress that’s been used by several people before you. A mattress protector will give you a fresh base and protect against any spills.

Bed Tent

Sharing a living space with someone new can be tough. You may be on completely different schedules, so your roommate could be wide awake while you’re trying to sleep. To get some privacy, purchase a bed tent. They fit over your existing mattress and can be zipped closed when you want to block out light.

Bed Risers

When you’re living in a dorm, storage space is at a premium. You need to use all available space, and that means storing some things under your bed. College beds are often fairly low, so it can be difficult to fit anything under there. But with a set of bed risers, you can get extra storage space for cheap.

Degree Finder

Shower and Bath

Private bathrooms are virtually unheard of in dorms. Instead, you’ll likely have a communal bathroom with showers that you share with the other people in your suite or hall. To make that as tolerable as possible, pick up these college dorm essentials.

Shower Shoes

It cannot be stressed enough: Shower shoes are critical. Walking barefoot in a shared bathroom can lead to nasty fungal or bacterial infections, so shower shoes are something you’ll likely use every day. No need to spend a lot of money; inexpensive rubber flip flops or sandals are perfect.

Shower Caddy

Since you’re sharing a bathroom with other people, you probably don’t want to leave all of your stuff sitting in the shower. Instead, use a shower caddy to keep all of your toiletries together. Look for one with a sturdy handle so you can easily carry it back and forth from the shower.

Hair Dryer

A hair dryer may not seem like a necessity. But that’s only until you try to go to an early morning class with wet hair in the winter. And in a pinch, you can use a hair dryer to quickly dry your clothes. Also, there are foldable travel hair dryers to help you save space.


You’ll have to walk to and from the shower every day. If you don’t want to carry your clothes and get changed in the bathroom, invest in a terry robe or bath covering. Make sure to find one with a loop so it can easily be hung on any hook.


When you’re in college, you probably won’t have the luxury of your own washer or dryer. If you plan to wash your clothes in the dorm laundromat, you’ll need the following items.

Wrinkle Releaser

You may have the best of intentions, but there will be times when you wake up two minutes before class and can’t find a wrinkle-free shirt. When you’re short on time, a wrinkle releaser spray is a lifesaver. It will make you look polished and put together, and keep your clothes smelling fresh.

Detergent and Stain Remover

You will have to bring your own detergent and stain remover to the laundromat whenever you need to wash your clothes. When shopping for detergent, pay attention to the labels; some detergents are meant only for high-efficiency machines. When in doubt, opt for a basic detergent and follow the directions.

Laundry Bag

Your dorm laundromat may not be on your floor, which means you may have to lug your laundry up and down several flights of stairs. If a bulky hamper won’t cut it, you’ll need a tough laundry bag instead. Look for one with sturdy handles or shoulder straps to make it easier to carry.

Room Essentials

While you may be looking forward to decorating your dorm with artwork and area rugs, make sure these items are also on your dorm checklist.

First Aid Kit

At some point, you or your roommate will probably get a cut, headache or the flu. If you have a comprehensive first aid kit, you can be prepared to handle whatever little issues come up. Make sure your kit includes bandages, gauze, antibacterial ointment and a thermometer, along with common over-the-counter medications for headaches, cold symptoms and other routine ailments.

Vacuum and Mop

In the dorm, you’re likely responsible for cleaning your own space, so you’ll need to vacuum and mop. No need to purchase large or expensive versions. A small stick vacuum and inexpensive sweeper kit will do the job.


While your college may not allow you to have hot plates or griddles in your room, you can probably have a microwave. If you’re short on space, look for a compact microwave rather than a full-size one.


Even if you’re on the university meal plan, you’ll want a refrigerator to store drinks and snacks in your room. There are many minifridges on the market, so you can even get one in your favorite color.

Storage Bins

You’ll need storage bins to stash your clothes, school supplies, toiletries and other items. Hard plastic under-bed bins can protect your things from getting covered in dust, and hanging organizers can maximize your closet space.

Desk Supplies and Electronics

Your list of dorm room essentials should also include items for entertainment and studying. Here are some items to include on your list.

Desk Lamp

A good desk lamp is key. Dorms usually have basic overhead lights which can be tough on your eyes. A desk lamp offers more direct light and can help you study when your roommate turns off the main lights to sleep.

Charging Station

Between your computer, tablet, phone, headphones and other devices, you may run out of outlets quickly. Purchase a charging station that has both USB and three-prong power ports to ensure you can charge everything you need.

Heavy-duty Bag

While you may use your tablet or phone for most of your reading, plenty of professors still require students to buy paper textbooks. When you have back-to-back classes, carrying all of your books can be tiring and strain your back. A well-made bag with multiple pockets will give you enough space for your books, laptop and even your favorite water bottle.

Sleep Headphones

Dorms can be incredibly noisy. If you have early morning classes or a huge test and need your rest, it can be really difficult to fall asleep when it’s so loud. Comfortable sleep headphones, which have flat earpieces and are worn like a headband, can help. These headphones can connect to your phone or tablet so you can play your favorite music or white noise to drown out loud neighbors.

How to Save on College Dorm Essentials

Purchasing every item on your college’s dorm checklist for freshmen can be prohibitively expensive. To save money and stick to your budget, use these four tips.

1. Check the Rules

Before spending any money, review your school’s rules for the dorms. Some items may not be allowed. Commonly prohibited items may include hot plates, toaster ovens, candles, electric blankets and sometimes string lights.

2. Connect With Your Roommate

Your school will likely send you your roommates’ information before you get on campus. Contact them to discuss what you need. For major expenses, such as a minifridge or television, you can decide if you want to split the cost or divide up the list of college dorm room essentials.

3. Start Thrifting

Your local thrift store can be a treasure trove of dorm room supplies. You can buy storage bins, desk lamps and bedding at huge discounts. You may have the greatest success by thrifting in your hometown; second-hand shops near campus may be picked over by the time you arrive.

4. Look Up Student Discounts

As a college student, you may be entitled to special discounts at many businesses. To find deals for your dorm room checklist, search by store or category on UNiDays. Retailers including Apple, Best Buy, and Sam’s Club have student discount programs as well.

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College Dorm Essentials Checklist: Everything You Need For School (2024)
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